Public meeting Tuesday on Penn Alexander kindergarten registration, according to e-mails

January 21, 2013

A public meeting to discuss kindergarten registration at the Penn Alexander School will be held tomorrow (Tuesday, Jan. 22) beginning at 11 a.m. in the school’s gym. In e-mail exchanges with parents who lined up Friday for registration, district spokesman Fernando Gallard said the meeting will be “open to anyone that would like to make a statement on the issue of Kindergarten matriculation at Penn Alexander.”

Gallard said that a microphone would be available for those who wanted to make statements. He encouraged people with similar statements to choose one or two representatives to speak on their behalf. The district has not made an official announcement of the meeting and there is no indication yet which district officials will attend.

The meeting follows the announcement Friday evening that the school would go to a lottery for kindergarten enrollment, ending the long-standing “first come, first served” policy that in recent years has lead to parents lining up well before registration started. This year the line began four days ahead of registration, which was supposed to open tomorrow at 9 a.m.

District officials announced the new policy some eight hours after the line had formed, angering many parents who said the change in policy limits their school options if their child is not selected in the lottery. In a letter distributed to parents in the line, Hite said the policy change will make the registration process “more efficient and less challenging for parents in the catchment area.”

The deadline to apply for the lottery is April 1 and it will be held in early April. The district has not announced a specific date.

18 Comments For This Post

  1. Just another bitter elitist Says:

    Here’s a fun point for discussion: Why is councilwoman Blackwell’s pastor’s son enrolled at PAS?

  2. Line Member Says:

    According to the Chief of Communications for the School District of Philadelphia they would not turn away any members of the public but that they were not advertising the meeting because “the goal of the meeting was to provide parents in line with an opportunity to present their concerns.” He added that the time limit for speakers would be 3 minutes, with some allowance made if the group selected one or two speakers on their behalf.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    According to a clarifying email, Gallard responded to the question of whether the meeting was open to the public with the statement that that “the goal of the meeting was to provide parents in line with an opportunity to present their concerns.” Update your story, please.

  4. Editor Says:

    @anonymous. Thanks for your reply. Please forward the “clarifying email” to us at editor – at – Mr. Gallard’s initial e-mail states that the meeting will be “open to anyone that would like to make a statement on the issue of Kindergarten matriculation at Penn Alexander.” That seems clear.

    Given the importance of this issue to the neighborhood – those in “the line,” those who weren’t in the line, those who hope their children can attend the school in the future and other members of the community – we will stand by the hope that this will be an open discussion as Mr. Gallard seemingly intended.

  5. Anonymouse Says:

    And, where does a person send you the email?

  6. Editor Says:

    Thank you @anonymous. Just to clarify, here’s what Mr. Gallard said in the e-mail you sent us:

    “We will not turndown or turn-away any member of the public. We are not outwardly advertising the meeting to the public because the goal of the meeting was to provide the parents in line with an opportunity to present their concerns. But, we will not turndown anyone else.”

    This issue impacts far more people than those who were in the line. Our story stands.

  7. Andy Says:

    I’ll be there to demand a lottery, and sibling preference- the other issue which is being overlooked in all this.

  8. Pissed parent Says:

    Don’t forget we want a lottery where applying parents can attend.

  9. Heather G Says:

    I am sure tomorrow’s meeting will focus mostly on line and lottery issues BUT since some families will have to send their kids elsewhere here are a few other things you should start considering and might want to bring up while you have people listening:
    -lottery timing: April is late. You’ll need to find out whether you are in or not before then to work out admission at alternate schools. Why not have the lottery next week? If they are going to have you do the regular district lottery, you may end up getting in nowhere (this happened to us). Neither Powel nor Greenfield have the capacity for you to just walk in and register kids there and Lea may not soon…
    -adding a Kindergarten to Lea: Powel took the Drew kids this year so the 2 K classes were full. Powel’s building is too small to accommodate extra classes on site. Lea currently has 3 classes of 20 kids but Wilson Alexander is closing this year and Lea will absorb them. McMichael is closing too and those kids will need to go to other area schools. You may want to start asking the district to add a kindergarten to Lea now. Realistically Lea is closest, and has the most room and it would be good to have the neighborhood kids together so you have a concentrated effort to make PAS 2.
    -Penn support: a lot of what makes PAS so successful (apart from the kids are mostly from well-off/educated homes and likely to succeed anywhere) is the extra Penn $. That money goes a long way in a district that can’t afford nurses or librarians at schools. You might want to start pushing Penn to share the wealth…perhaps by even halving their $1100 (or is it $1300?) per kid subsidy to PAS and sending half to Lea.
    -bussing: in another thread parents said they didn’t want to drive kids to other schools or put them on a bus. There are NO bus options to our neighborhood schools currently. The SDP pays for private school kids to be bussed up to 10 mi out of the city to private schools and there is bussing to some charter (Independence) and magnet (Gamp) schools, but there are no busses to Lea or Powel or Greenfield. The $ for that was cut years ago and these are intended to be neighborhood schools where kids can walk. If you want a bus option to a district school, you might want to ask for this too.
    -one thing that would go a long way to making PAS not such a divisive issue is if PAS accepted out of catchment (“transfer”) kids in grades where they have room like every other neighborhood school in the district. This is part of why PAS is labeled elitist. Powel ends after 4th grade. Powel kids have to scramble to get admitted elsewhere for 5th grade and often end up commuting far. Why can’t PAS share the success and take out of catchment kids in the upper grades where they are not full?
    -Finally, start reading the “Notebook”. Living in the PAS catchment meant that most of the SDP problems over the years haven’t applied to you. Our schools have been struggling for years. Hite is brand new. He might be good but the district’s problems are massive. It’s going to take a unified front to get the kinds of changes our schools need citywide. The charters have gutted the District schools, siphoning off kids and money. Just like SDP schools (like PAS) some are very successful at producing high performers, but some are mismanaged and corrupt and there is no one process for applying to SDP and charter schools and there should be since both are publicly funded. That means the process is at best confusing and at worst corrupt. Many PAS families are well connected and well positioned to make things better for many Philly school children, plus your own.

  10. Darlene Says:

    Wonderful points all, Heather. Thanks.

  11. Andy Says:

    Couldn’t Lea be much more successful if each parent contributed the ‘Penn$’ $1300?

    That is _way_ cheaper than any religious school, and minuscule compared to the private schools around here.

    I am thinking now that having that $$ would go a long way to making Lea into PAS2.

  12. Denise Says:

    Correction to Heather G’s statement. Lea does not have 3 Kindergarten classes of 20 students each. It has 2 Kindergarten classes of 30 students each.

    And a question: Are you sure the school district pays to bus students going to private schools?!? It is correct that they bus students to charters and magnets.

  13. Amara Says:

    Denise, Lea has three kindergarten classes this year. The third was added in September. The teachers are Ms. Mykytiuch, Ms. Zatuchni and Ms. Labolito. There are also three 1st grades. The 1st grade teachers are Ms. Clarke, Ms. Davis and Mr. Gold.

    I can go into greater detail about the PROPOSED closures of Alexander Wilson Elementary and McMichael Elementary later today but it’s really something West Philly Local might want to do a story on (hint, hint) since there’s so much confusion. Below is an upcoming event to discuss the proposals. (These schools are not getting individual meetings with the district to discuss their proposed closures.)

    Facilities Master Plan Community Meeting: Wednesday, January 23rd, 6 p.m.- 8 p.m. at University City High School, 3601 Filbert Street. To discuss impact on University City High School, Robeson, Alexander Wilson, Leidy and McMichael and learn more about the recommendations, share input and ask questions.

  14. Denise Says:

    Amara, interesting. When I visited on Oct 12 & Oct 15, and there were 2 classes of 30 students. At the time, the kindergarten teachers told me they were not in fact getting a 3rd Kindergarten class, that the idea had not gone through. So I guess that changed later on….

    Powel, frustratingly, still has 30 students per Kindergarten class.

  15. Amara Says:

    Yes Denise, sorry I got the month wrong. The third Kindergarten class was added in October. It was the third 1st grade that was added sooner.

  16. ANON Says:

    So…. What happened at the meeting? I am totally nosey.

  17. admin Says:

    Stay tuned…

  18. Anon Says:

    Wow. Mike, did you really just delete two comments telling readers about people who tweeted from the meeting? Maybe it’s time to update the language on WPL’s “about” page that says “our most important contributors are you, the readers.” Unbelievable.

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